Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals has worked feverishly over the past couple decades to push sales of its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The medication was one of the company’s best-selling drugs for years, but Janssen’s questionable marketing techniques have come at a price not only to the drug company but to the patients who used it.
Johnson & Johnson and Janssen have shelled out billions of dollars in fines and to settle more than 1,300 Risperdal lawsuits. In 2012, the company paid $158 million for illegally marketing the drug to children and the elderly. A year later, the companies were ordered to pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil fraud charges. Meanwhile, Risperdal raked in $28.9 billion in sales from 1994 to 2010.
Risperdal, known generically as risperidone, is approved to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability with autism. In 2006, it was approved for use in children though Johnson & Johnson and Janssen pushed for use in minors long before that date. Even now, the drug is used off-label to treat ADD and ADHD, among other disorders.
Doctors have the authority to write prescriptions for medication for uses for which they are not approved. However, drug companies are forbidden to market their medications for these uses.
Johnson & Johnson and Janssen may have paid billions to protect Risperdal, but it’s the patients who have paid in other ways. Risperdal side effects include gynecomastia, a condition in which boys grow female breasts. One patient, Austin Pledger, grew size 44DD breasts as a result of taking Risperdal since age 8 to treat autism. Last January, the drug companies were ordered by a Philadelphia jury to pay Pledger $2.5 million in damages. Pledger’s was the first of 1,200 Risperdal cases filed in Philadelphia alone.
The lawsuits claim that Johnson & Johnson and Janssen knew all along that its blockbuster schizophrenia drug Risperdal could make boys and young men grow breasts. Yet the companies failed to warn doctors or patients of this risk. Instead, the drug companies claim the boys’ abnormal breast growth – or so-called “man-boobs” – were the result of puberty and being overweight.
Source: The Daily Beast